Adoption Leave

Last updated: 21 May 2021

What is adoption leave?

Adoption leave is available to employees only (not workers or self-employed people).  It usually applies to an individual or to couples who have been newly matched with a child, but a member of a couple having a child via a surrogacy arrangement may also be able to take adoption leave. The intended parent must be someone who will be applying for a parental order. In some circumstances, local authority foster parents will also be able to take adoption leave if they receive notification as approved prospective adopters.

Where a couple are adopting, they need to decide which will be the main “adopter” – with more extensive rights –  and which the secondary adopter.  The main adopter (if they meet the eligibility requirements) will be entitled to adoption leave of 52 weeks, Statutory Adoption Pay, and to paid time off for adoption appointments.  There is no length of service requirement for adoption leave (but there is for Statutory Adoption Pay).   The secondary adopter (if eligible) will have to take paternity leave for adopters and Statutory Paternity Pay and will only be entitled to take unpaid time off for adoption appointments.

The rules on adoption leave differ slightly if you’re adopting from abroad. You can find information on the website.

Who can take time off to attend adoption appointments?

The main adopter (if they are an employee or  an agency worker who has completed a 12 week qualifying period) who has been notified a child will be placed with them are able to attend up to five adoption appointments on a paid basis.  Each appointment is for a maximum of six and a half hours.  For a couple who are adopting, only one person can use this; if the other partner is also employed, they will be entitled to unpaid time off for two adoption appointments.

How do I give notice to my employer?

You must tell your employer you want to take adoption leave within seven days of being told that you’ve been matched with a child, or, in a surrogacy arrangement, by the end of the 15th week before the child is due.

You need to let them know:

  • When you expect the child to be placed with you (or when it is due if you are having a child via a surrogacy arrangement).
  • When you want your adoption leave to start. This can be either the day the child actually starts living with you, or any date up to 14 days before you expect them to arrive, and no later than the expected date of placement. In a surrogacy arrangement, leave must start the day the child is born.

You may also be entitled to Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP). It’s advisable to give notice of adoption pay at the same time at the same time as notice of adoption leave.

What if I am a foster parent?

If you are a local authority foster parent who has been approved as a prospective adopter, you count as an adopter of a child when they have ben placed with you by an adoption agency as their prospective adopter (this is also known as ‘fostering for adoption’ placement). You may therefore qualify for Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP), Statutory Paternity Pay (for adoption) or Shared Parental Pay (adoption) while the child is fostered by you, before the actual adoption.

What work may I do during adoption leave?

You may work for your employer for up to 10 days without bringing your adoption leave to an end or losing your SAP.

These days are known as Keeping in Touch days (KIT days) and can only take place by agreement. You cannot be made to work during adoption leave, nor can you demand to have work during adoption leave. The rules about taking KIT days during adoption leave, and how much you should get paid for them, are the same as the rules for women taking KIT days during maternity leave.

Can we share parental leave?

If you have a partner, you could think about whether to reduce your adoption leave and pay in order to create Shared Parental Leave (SPL)and Pay. Depending on whether you and your partner meet the conditions, you may be able to share 50 of the 52 weeks of adoption leave with your partner.  The main adopter must take at least the first two weeks of adoption leave, but the remainder may be shared so that you can both be on leave at the same time, or take it in turns to take up to three blocks of leave each within the first year of adoption.

To be eligible for SPL as the main adopter you and your partner must satisfy certain conditions:

  • you must be eligible for statutory adoption leave;
  • you must have been in continuous employment with your employer for at least 26 weeks before the week in which you are matched for adoption;
  • you must have main responsibility for caring for the child (disregarding your adoption partner’s responsibility);
  • your partner must also have worked for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks preceding the matching date, earned at least £30 in 13 of those weeks and have the main responsibility (disregarding your responsibility) for caring for the child;
  • you must have curtailed your statutory adoption leave, either by returning to work or by serving notice on your employer that you are curtailing” (cutting short) your adoption leave at least 8 weeks before you want your adoption leave to end.You must also give your employer:
  • a notice of entitlement and intention to take SPL;
  • if requested, evidence of the adoption and the name and address of your partner’s employer
  • a period of leave notice.

To be eligible for SPL as the secondary adopter:

  • you must be an employee with at least 26 weeks continuous service by the end of the week in which you are matched for adoption;
  • you must have the main responsibility for caring for the child (disregarding the main adopter’s responsibility);
  • you must have given the correct notices of eligibility, evidence and period of leave to your employer;
  • your partner must have worked for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks preceding the matching date, earned at least £30 in 13 of those weeks and have the main responsibility (disregarding your responsibility) for caring for the child; and
  • your partner must be eligible for either statutory adoption leave or statutory adoption pay and has agreed to curtail such leave/pay.

More information on Shared Parental Leave and sample notices are available at .

Do I have a right to return to work after adoption leave?

If you want to return to work before you have taken your 52 weeks’ leave, you must give your employer eight weeks’ notice.

You can change your mind about your return date but you must give notice at least eight weeks before the new date or the original date you gave, whichever is the earlier. If you are an “employee shareholder”, you must give 16 weeks’ notice to return early. “Employee shareholder” is a specific employment status in which the employee agrees to give up certain rights- take further advice if you think you are an employee shareholder.

If you take less than six months’ adoption leave, your employer must allow you to return to the same job on the same terms and conditions as when you left. If you take more than six months’ adoption leave, your employer should allow you to return to your original job, unless it is not reasonably practicable, when they should offer you a suitable alternative. Seek legal advice if you are not allowed to return to the same job, you are not offered any job or you think the job you have been offered is not suitable.

All your other terms and conditions of employment continue throughout your adoption leave.  If you are made redundant while on adoption leave, you are entitled to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy (if one exists) before the end of your existing contract.

More information on your employment rights and adoption leave, where you may be facing redundancy, discrimination or dismissal, can be found on our website here

What happens if an adoption placement ends or the child isn’t placed on the expected date?

If you have started adoption leave and then the placement is not made, or the child returns to the adoption agency, or the child dies, your leave will normally finish eight weeks later (or at the end of the Statutory Adoption Leave period if this is earlier). If you are getting Statutory Adoption Pay, this will also end eight weeks after the adoption finishes (or at the end of the Statutory Adoption Pay period if this is earlier). Because you have to give eight weeks’ notice of an early return from adoption leave, this will mean you have to give notice to your employer as soon as the placement ends. If you have not started your adoption leave when you find out that a child is not going to be placed with you or your partner, then you cannot take any leave or pay.

This advice applies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. If you live in another part of the UK, the law may differ. Please call our helpline for more details.

If you have further questions and would like to contact our advice team please use our advice contact form below or call us.

Advice contact form

Have you heard about your right to request flexible working? Watch our film to find out more.

DonateReceive updates button

The information on the law contained on this site is provided free of charge and does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. If you are not a solicitor, you are advised to obtain specific legal advice about your case or matter and not to rely solely on this information. Law and guidance is changing regularly in this area.